Yesterday, our neighboring city of Nanjing was rocked by a giant explosion at a plastic factory which killed 10 people and injured over 120. Of those, 14 are critically injured. The force of the blast was so strong that broken glass was strewn along streets as far as 1km away.
According to Xinhua, the explosion was caused by workers damaging a propylene pipeline as they were dismantling factory buildings at the Nanjing No. 4 Plastics Factory. An excavator had hit a pipe of 159mm in diameter. The pipe began spewing gas, which was then lit on fire when a motorist started a car engine at the scene.
Allegedly, this wasn’t even the first time a major gas leak happened in the area. Nanfang Daily reports that just one day before, in the exact same district, a fertilizer tank vehicle got stuck under a railway bridge and damaged its sealing lid, causing hundreds of tons of liquefied petroleum gas to spew out over several hundred meters. Police and firemen managed to contain that leak before anyone was seriously hurt.
One near miss and one actual devastating explosion (with possible environmental consequences) in one week? What is with the shoddy protection systems in place for these kind of problems in Nanjing? The Xinhua, article doesn’t say much about it, and, if this accidental live broadcast is any indication, they were the only ones allowed at the scene.
At the scene, the Jiangsu City TV Channel reporter was conducting a live broadcast. An unidentified government leader came over and asked: “What is your name? Give me your telephone. Who gave permission for you to conduct a live broadcast?” The reporter replied: “The Xinhua reporters are here too. Why don’t you ask them first?”
Although this reporter identified himself as a Jiangsu TV reporter, it was to no avail as his signal was cut off. However, this particular encounter with the official was show live over Jiangsu City TV.
This video was widely disseminated on the Internet, and that official has been identified. About 30 minutes later, the video began to disappear from the various video websites.
While this is the only big proof that Chinese officials are now making sure only their state-approved report of the blast is disseminated, others in the area have also complained of censorship.
Time will tell whether the knee-jerk reaction is just a typical attempt to control the news in any emergency, or whether there was something here that Nanjing officials were especially careful to hide. At any rate, the chances we’ll be able to see anything besides tales of selfless Nanjing residents donating blood from local media is pretty slim.